The Tamil Government on Sunday announced the extension of the lockdown till May 31 as Covid cases remained unabated with the total crossing 10,000 and toll touching 74.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami announced the fourth extension of the lockdown by another two weeks but said the regulations would be eased in 25 districts and restrictions would continue in Chennai and 11 other districts where it is rampant, but confined to containment zones.
In the districts where the rules have been relaxed companies with less than 100 employees can work with half of the strength as well as those engaged in health care and other essential services.
It also said the companies could operate buses within their respective districts without epass and autorickshaws and cabs would also be allowed to run with restrictions on number of passengers.
The 25 districts where rules have been relaxed following improvement include eastern districts of Coimbatore, Nilgiris, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, karur, Namakkal and Tiruppur. Also in this list are southern districts of Madurai, Theni, Virudhanagar, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Kanyakumari.
Similar easing of rules will be in place in Cauvery delta districts of Pudukottai, Tiruchi, Nagapatinam, Tiruvarur and Thanjavur as well as western districts of Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Vellore.
As Chennai and surrounding districts have emerged as the hotspot, accounting for over 6,000 of the total 10,000 plus cases, the restrictions will continue for another fortnight. But relaxations announced earlier in these districts except in containment zones will continue.
Most shops and establishments , vegetable and fruit shops, electrical and home appliances shops, TV sales showrooms as well as two-wheeler and cars show rooms and service outlets.
These red districts besides Chennai are Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Chengalpattu, Villuppuram, Cuddalore, Ranipet, Tiruppattur, Kallakurichi, Tiruvannamalai, Ariyalur, and Perambulur.
While train and air services already suspended till May 31, even the metro train services and bus services will also stay suspended as also auto-rickshaws and taxis. This shows that the Government has put on hold the decision to resume metropolitan bus services with 25 passengers per bus load in Chennai from May 18 as recommended by an experts committee.
As the Government has opened liquor shops after getting the Supreme Court to vacate the interim stay granted by the Madras High Court, resumption of bus services will lead to another outbreak of cases in Chennai and other big cities.
The high court while granting stay, expressed fear that these shops could become hotspots for Covid as had happened in Koyambedu wholesale vegetable market before it was closed.
The Chief Minister in his statement said all tourist spots like Nilgiris, Kodaikanal and Yercaud would continue to stay closed to the public.
He said schools and colleges would remain shut but evaluation of 12th class examination answer papers would be allowed and 10th class examination would be conducted with special arrangements for buses to students.
He said cinemas, gyms, parks, museums, zoos, swimming pools and sports stadia would remain shut. However sportsmen training for national games would be allowed to get the facilities with the permission of respective district collectors.
The Chief Minister also said the ban on congregation in temples, churches, mosques and other places of worship would continue.
In a relief to the landless labourers, the Chief Minister said the full compliment of landless labourers would be allowed to be covered by the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme under which they are given work for 200 days a year. He said 100 per cent of workers covered by this scheme would engaged against the cut of 50 per cent announced earlier to ensure social distancing,